Electromobility in the off-road industry

Paving the way for electromobility

If we look at the passenger car industry, people have been predicting the transition to electric powered vehicles for years. Things really took off when investments in infrastructure and government tax incentives paved the way for change. Of course, consumers were also concerned about the performance, reliability and cost of battery technologies, and these have improved, but it was the reduction in price that really made electric powered cars a realistic option. In off-road machinery we expect to see a similar thing, where incentives and infrastructure readiness play a significant role in demand. 

The transition in the passenger car industry is being and will be followed by commercial vehicles like city buses, city distribution trucks and haulage trucks. These will come before off-road machinery because, when it comes to non-road machinery, there is a huge increase in the variety of applications the machines work in. For example, today Volvo Penta diesel engines are providing power to hundreds of different applications in different environments and conditions. Each machine and application has its own requirements based on how it’s used and the legislation for that industry, so there will be no one-size-fits-all solution. 

In order for the transition from fossil fuels to electric power to happen, high-power charging infrastructure needs to be taken out of cities to places like industrial sites, agricultural farms, ports and mines – and this needs to be combined with supportive incentives and affordable prices. We have started to see a few examples of this happening in places such as Europe, China and California in the United States.  

Another challenge in the off-road industry is how to sort out the energy demand for high power consuming machines. The tipping point here will be similar to passenger cars – when battery-powered industrial machines are affordable, the off-road industry will be ready to make the transition. Battery costs will be the key to this as an industrial vehicle consumes a lot more energy than a passenger car, hence battery costs are much higher. The cost of an electric vehicle compared to a conventional vehicle is significantly higher, and most of this cost comes from the battery itself. Over the last ten years there has been a good downward trend in the cost of batteries which has helped the passenger car industry, we hope to see the same happening for off-road machinery. 

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